Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace to Go on Gallery Display for the First Time

For the very first time, some of the masterpieces from the private collection of the British Royal Family—which usually hang in The Picture Gallery at Buckingham Palace—will go on public display this December. It is a rare opportunity for you to take a glimpse of the Queen’s hidden masterpieces.

Buckingham Palace is undergoing its biggest refurbishment since the Second World War. The decade-long renovation which is expected to cost £369m involves replacing ageing cables, lead pipes, wiring and boilers. Meanwhile, over 10,000 artworks from the Royal collection need to be moved out.

Buckingham Palace

The Royal Collection inside Buckingham Palace

65 of these masterpieces including artworks by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Rubens and Titian will go on show in The Queen’s Gallery. The exhibition Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace will run from 4 December 2020 - 31 January 2022. These paintings usually only go on public view during the annual Summer Opening of the Palace. The exhibition allows people to see them in a gallery setting for the first time.

The Picture Gallery was originally designed by architect John Nash for George IV to display his collection of Dutch, Flemish and Italian Old Master paintings. George IV is arguably the most magnificent of British monarchs and formed an unrivalled collection of art, much of which remains in the Royal Collection.

Rembrandt's The Shipbuilder and his Wife. 1636. Oil on canvas. 113.8 x 169.8cm

Among the highlights is Rembrandt's The Shipbuilder and his Wife, rumoured to be a favourite of Queen Elizabeth II. This couple in the painting was identified as Jan Rijcksen and his wife Griet Jans. He was a shareholder in the Dutch East India Company and from 1620 their master shipbuilder.

Rather than making the usual pair of separate husband-and-wife paintings, Rembrandt has created a composition as if these two portraits are run together into a single image, making their interaction more vivid. The painting depicts Griet Jans bursting into the room and interrupting her husband with an urgent message.

Rembrandt was most successful and fashionable as a portrait painter. His art was also at its most naturalistic, especially in the depiction of textures and surfaces, which are here described in great fidelity. The light shown in the painting is almost completely natural, flooding the space from the window visible at the left edge, catching each form at an angle and revealing its detail and texture.

Vermeer’s The Music Lesson. 1662-1665. Oil on canvas. 74.1 x 64.6cm

Vermeer’s enigmatic work The Music Lesson will also be featured in the show. Johannes Vermeer, an influential Dutch Golden Age painter, is known for his luminous paintings of daily life. His most famous work is Girl with a Pearl Earring. Vermeer's extant body of work is extremely limited, constituting just 36 paintings held in 18 museums and private collections across the globe.

The Music Lesson is characterised by the artist’s remarkable use of perspective, drawing the viewer’s eye to the man and woman standing by the virginal at the back of the room. In front of them, a bass viol lies on the floor. The presence of two musical instruments in the composition implies shared pleasures and a potential harmony.

Titian's Madonna and Child in a Landscape with Tobias and the Angel. 1535-1540. Oil on canvas. 85.2 x 120.3cm

Anthony van Dyck’s Christ Healing the Paralytic. 1619. Oil on canvas. 120.2  x 148.8cm

Canaletto’s The Bacino di San Marco on Ascension Day. 1733-1734. Oil on canvas. 76.8 x 125.4cm

The Royal Collection contains around 7,000 paintings, 500,000 prints and 30,000 watercolours and drawings. The majority of the art collection is Old Masters and pre-20th-century art, combined with works by Post-War and contemporary artists such as Anish Kapoor and Andy Warhol acquired in more recent years. Other treasures in the monarchy’s trove include photography, ceramics, sculptures, manuscripts and the Crown Jewels. The collection is reportedly valued at £10bn.

Exhibition details

Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace
Dates: Starting from 4 December 2020|Thursday to Monday (Click here to buy tickets)
Location:  The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace

Adult: £16.00
Over 60: £14.50
Under 17/ Disabled: £12.00
Student: £8.00
Family: £40.00
Under 5: Free